How E-cigarettes Can Damage the Lungs

Everyone knows about the dangers of smoking cigarettes. In recent years, some people have made the switch to e-cigarettes, viewing them as a healthy alternative. But what if electronic cigarettes are also damaging to your respiratory health?

Not So Easy Breathing

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) put these products under the microscope, examining lung tissues from four participants who routinely smoked e-cigarettes. Specifically, these subjects had been vaping e-cigarettes for periods ranging from three to eight years. They also had been diagnosed with chronic lung disease.

At the onset of the study, each participant was asked to undergo pulmonary function tests, high resolution chest imaging, and surgical lung biopsy. Thanks to these examinations, the research team was able to determine that each person had constrictive bronchiolitis, a condition characterized by tightening of the small airways inside the lungs.

That wasn’t the only bad news for the e-cigarette smokers. Three of the participants showed signs of mild emphysema, which the study authors believe is related to their previous use of conventional cigarettes.

Time to Quit?

There were some silver linings to the study’s findings. After the subjects stopped vaping, the MGH team noted that their symptoms improved to a certain degree. This development, along with the type of damage the team had documented among the four smokers, prompted the study authors to conclude that vaping was the most likely to blame for the subjects’ respiratory woes.

“All four individuals we studied had injury localized to the same anatomic location within the lung, manifesting as small airway-centered fibrosis with constrictive bronchiolitis, which was attributed to vaping after thorough clinical evaluations excluded other possible causes,” stated MGH pathologist Lida Hariri, MD, PhD, who served as the study’s senior author. “We also observed that when patients ceased vaping, they had a partial reversal of the condition over one to four years, though not complete due to residual scarring in the lung tissue.”

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